Ireland: Litigation: Enforcement Of Foreign Judgments In Ireland

General framework

Domestic law

Which domestic laws and regulations govern the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?

Brussels Regime

For judgments and proceedings commenced before January 10 2015, the Brussels I Regulation (44/2001) applies. The Brussels I Regulation was implemented into Irish law by the European Communities (Civil and Commercial Judgment) Regulations 2002 (SI 52/2002).

For proceedings commenced after January 10 2015 the enforcement of EU judgments is governed by the Brussels I Recast Regulation (1215/2012) (the Brussels I Recast Regulation and the Brussels I Regulation are known as the 'Brussels Regime'), which was implemented into Irish law by the European Union (Civil and Commercial Judgments) Regulations 2015 (SI 6/2015). The objective of the Brussels I Recast Regulation was to make the recognition and enforcement of EU judgments more straightforward and it has dispensed with the need to bring any application to court in respect of judgments to which it applies.


The Jurisdiction of Courts and Enforcement of Judgments Act 1998 and the Jurisdiction of Courts and Enforcement of Judgments (Amendment) Act 2012 incorporate the Brussels Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 1968 (the predecessor of the Brussels Regime), the Lugano Convention on the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 1988 and the Lugano Convention on Jurisdiction and the Recognition of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 2007 into Irish law.

In essence, the Lugano Convention is relevant to the enforcement of judgments from European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states. The Brussels Convention is still relevant to a limited number of territories of EU member states whose territories are outside the European Union. The principles and processes regarding recognition and enforcement under the Brussels Convention are essentially the same as under the Lugano Convention and the Brussels I Regulation.

Order 42A of the Irish Rules of the Superior Courts incorporates the Brussels I Regulation regime and the Lugano Convention (and the Brussels Convention) into the Irish court rules, which detail how the necessary application should be brought before the Irish courts. As indicated above, for judgments to which the Brussels I Recast Regulation applies, no court application is required.

Common law

Common law enforcement principles apply for the recognition and enforcement of judgments where the originating countries are neither EU nor EFTA member states. For such enforcement, an application for leave to issue and serve proceedings outside of the jurisdiction must first be brought under Order 11 of the Rules of the Superior Courts.

International conventions

Which international conventions and bilateral treaties relating to the recognition and enforcement of judgments apply in your jurisdiction?

Ireland has not entered into any bilateral treaty arrangements regarding the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. However, it has entered into several multilateral treaties which are relevant to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Ireland. The law applicable to the enforcement of such judgments depends primarily on the jurisdiction which has issued the foreign judgment, as well as the date and subject of the foreign proceedings.

The principal treaty-based scheme relates to the recognition and enforcement of judgments to which Ireland is a party is for EU member states. The Brussels I Recast Regulation applies to proceedings issued on or after January 10 2015 and the Brussels I Regulation applies to proceedings commenced before that date, so is therefore still relevant. The Brussels Regime has almost entirely replaced the Brussels Convention, although this instrument still applies to a limited number of territories of EU member states, where the territories themselves are outside the European Union.

The Lugano Convention is applicable to the enforcement in Ireland of judgments involving the EFTA states of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. In terms of practical steps and relevant legal principles, enforcement of Lugano Convention judgments is broadly akin to the regime under the Brussels I Regulation.

The European Union has also made provision for three other procedures aimed at simplifying and speeding up recognition and enforcement in particular cases.

Regulation 805/2004 provides for the European Enforcement Order process for cases where the judgment has been issued in a specific sum in uncontested proceedings. This process allows the issuing court to certify the judgment which can then be recognised and enforced easily in other member states.

Regulation 861/2007 provides for the Small Claims Procedure, which allows cross-border claims to be brought under a simplified procedure for civil or commercial claims which do not exceed €2,000, excluding interest, expenses and disbursements.

The European Order for Payment was established pursuant to Regulation 1896/2006 (as amended), providing for standardised forms and procedures for pursuing uncontested money debts without monetary limit. The Small Claims Procedure and the European Order for Payment allow enforcement in member states without the need for certification or registration in the first instance.

In addition to those listed above, Ireland is a party to subject matter specific conventions which include provisions on recognition and enforcement. These are given force in domestic legislation. For example, the International Carriage of Goods by Road Act 1990 gives effect to the Convention on the Contract for International Carriage of Goods by Road.

Competent courts

Which courts are competent to hear cases on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

The Irish High Court is the relevant court in which to bring an application for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments (where necessary). However, depending on monetary thresholds, lower civil courts have jurisdiction in respect of the European Enforcement Order and Small Claims Procedures.

Distinction between recognition and enforcement

Is there a legal distinction between the recognition and enforcement of a judgment?

Recognition is the process of giving the same effect or status to the judgment in the country where enforcement is sought as in the state where the judgment was given. Under Irish law, enforcement is typically understood as being made subject to the process of execution. However, as a precursor to that the judgment must be recognised such that recognition of the judgment, except in limited circumstances, is a precondition to enforcement. The specific regime applicable determines how recognition is obtained. It is only where enforcement (execution) is not required that recognition alone might be sought (eg, declaratory relief or where it is relied upon as res judicata to prevent the parties relitigating the same dispute). Since only foreign money judgments may be recognised and enforced at common law in Ireland, it is rare for recognition to be sought on its own in respect of such foreign judgments, as enforcement (execution) is typically the objective in pursuing the proceedings.

Ease of enforcement

In general, how easy is it to secure recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?

This depends on the applicable regime.

For judgments that fall within the Brussels Regime and the Lugano Convention it is relatively straightforward to secure recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements, provided the judgment is not within the recognised grounds for refusal.

For judgments under common law, the position is not quite as straightforward, as it is the court's discretion whether to recognise a foreign judgment. However, as a general principle, and on the basis of respect and comity between international courts, the approach of the Irish court to proceedings seeking recognition and enforcement is generally positive, provided the judgment is for a definite sum, is final and conclusive, and has been given by a court of competent jurisdiction. However, there are grounds on which recognition and enforcement of such judgments may be refused.

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Originally published in Lexology

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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